The other obvious areas of difference are in the materials used in the connectors and the solder junctions. But variations in the materials (flat, round, silver-plated, diameters, winding configurations) all can be manipulated within an interconnect cable and the results can change the way a cable sounds. Some subjective observations can be confirmed with measurements and correlations revealed.
For example, using before-after RTA measurements may reveal minor differences in sound pressure levels across the audio spectrum. Capacitance, resistance, and inductance measurements could explain why high frequencies roll off or are over exaggerated. Using a more sophisticated approach to observing change involves a device that measures the "transfer function" of the signal. Here the signal that enters the preamplifier is compared to the signal that reaches your ear (everything in the audio chain is measured in this type of analysis). Combining these measurements could explain why a difference between cable A and cable B is perceived.
But no one does this primarily because there are no standards (what does this measured change mean?). And when using the same cable but changing amplifiers, this change also changes the results of these measurements (and the resulting sound) not only because of the amplifier change and its internal transfer function but also because of the interaction of the new amplifier's input impedance driven by the preamp through this cable altering the end-to-end transfer function. Same preamp, same cable, new amplifier, new end-to-end transfer function. Same preamp, new cable, same amplifier, new end-to-end transfer function. In other words, changing any part of the chain will alter the sound in some way; it has to. Weather you can hear or measure this change is a different story.
So the best that reviewers can do is to explain their subjective impressions based on the equipment at hand at the time of the review knowing darned well that their results will undoubtedly change when connected to your system. In other words, the perceived changes they write about may or may not be the same changes you perceive in your system. However, some things can be gleaned if you understand what might be consistent across their/your systems.
In this review, I evaluate the performance of solid silver interconnect cables made by a local company, Home Brew Cables. This is a brand new manufacturer whose website may appear in its infancy but its products are not. The owner-audiophile, Roy Locke, had a simple idea: introduce audiophiles to the sound of silver at an affordable price. And so he did.
I used a pair of 1-meter PS-1 cables between my OPPO BDP-105 and my Onkyo P-3000R preamp, and a pair of 0.75 meter PS-1 cables between my preamp and my McIntosh MC-2100 power amp. These cables are unshileded and non-polarized meaning that their use is not recommended for phono-to-preamp connections. However, for higher-level signals from other peripherals to your preamp or receiver these unshileded cables will function adequately. A brief description of cable construction from the manufacturer follows:
Each cable is made from 0.999s 28AWG pure silver solid core conductors, one for hot and one for return, in a parallel configuration.
These are delicate cables and must not be treated rough. A good length of heat-shrink tubing is applied at each connector end providing reasonable strain relief at the connector however the connectors themselves can be unscrewed and care must be taken to not damage the internal solder joints by inadvertently twisting them.
When Doug Sax and Lincoln Mayorga of Sheffield Labs, owners of this premier direct-to-disk record company, heard the sound of a silver interconnect cable in the recording chain, they decided that all of the cables and connectors would be swapped for silver. I never forgot this and knew that what they heard must have been truly special in order for them to spring for such a sweeping investment. The consistent thing you can hear between any audio system is this same difference that Doug and Linc heard at that time in their recording studio.
These cables, while stellar in the bass, midrange, and high frequencies, suffer in a few areas compared to more costly esoteric cables. First, they lack speed (most likely because of the single-strand solid core). While they have good high frequency content, the quick tap of drumsticks on cymbals sounds smeared and soft compared to others and a similar characteristic is also heard in the abrupt dynamics of lower-register percussion. Next, they lack subsonic response and high-frequency extension. Because of this, they appear to emphasize the bandwidth that they can cover and even though your system may consist of a subwoofer and super tweeter, these will not capitalize on the signals that they pass.
For the bandwidth that they can handle, they are absolutely impressive. The soundstage width and height is huge and the position of instruments is rock solid. There is something about their ability to reveal nuances in performances that you just cannot hear in similar price-point cables. The more I listen to these cables, the more I like them even though they are not "perfect." I can overlook their shortcomings and enjoy the music rather than listen to other budget cables that color the sound.
For example, the Blue Coast DSD recording of Alex DeGrassi's The Water Garden contains very well recorded fingering of his solo guitar. finger slides on the wire-wound strings are better revealed as are the vibrato nuances excited by his fingers wiggling on the frets. Even minor string buzzes against the guitar body and neck are wonderfully conveyed in astounding detail. This is a pretty complicated achievement and one that I commend Roy in doing.
Next, the front-to-back depth is pretty decently exemplified in another DSD track of mine called When It's Sleepy Time (I cannot recall where I purchased this track and Shazam cannot help either). Here the sound of the saxophone is literally second to none. The roundness of the instrument without becoming blaring or glaring is a testimony to the wondrous properties of these sliver conductors. The timbre remains believable throughout its entire range and the echoes in the room reveal a spaciousness to the overall performance.
The PS-1 cables are in a word sweet! They show you how esoteric cables can improve the impression of your existing equipment without breaking the bank. They are smooth, revealing, and fluid, much like the sound of good tubes and planar speakers and can add that bit of class to your otherwise quality home system. Like any fine piece of art, sculpture, or delicate instrument, they must be handled with care and when doing so the results are superb.
Even though the PS-1 cables are not what one would consider "exotic" by any stretch of the imagination, they have a similar attraction and appeal. I personally prefer the Mark Tunis cables over the PS-1 in my system; as mentioned earlier your results may prove otherwise. However, with the PS-1 cables you should hear deeper into the music more so than with other cables costing considerably more than these. They appear to be more transparent and "get out of the way" of the entire signal path than any other cables in their price range - at least for the bandwidth they can cover.
- Home Brew Cables PS-1 1.0 meter cable, Neutrik gold-plated connectors, $59.95. Free CONUS shipping
- Custom lengths available at $10 additional per 0.5 meter.
- Custom connectors available upon request at an additional expense,
See their website at http://home-brew-cables.webnode.com/products-1/ for all of their products.
I would like to thank Philip for the honest and straightforward review. While measurements are important in any review I feel that one should never rely solely on measurements but let their own ears decide.
Home Brew Cables
Skeptics are essential to keep us sane; skeptics do little to keep us inspired. Philip Rastocny, 7-16-2014